Judge halts Arkansas plan to execute 8 inmates in 11 days

And it came a day before a federal judge in a separate decision issued an injunction blocking all the deaths.

The Democrat-Gazette cites Baker as writing, "there is a significant possibility that plaintiffs will succeed on the merits of their Eighth Amendment challenge to Arkansas's lethal injection protocol".

The series of legal roadblocks constitute a major setback for Arkansas's Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, who had pushed for the accelerated executions as the expiration of the state's supply of midazolam drew near. The company said that the state of Arkansas "gone outside approved channels to obtain midazolam and potassium chloride". The drug's maker, McKesson Medical Surgical, said it had been misled by the state. The court did not explain the decision, which is the second time this month a court has stayed one of the state's planned executions. They said that the Arkansas Department of Corrections has been unable to locate more of the vecuronium bromide needed as part of its three-drug protocol, and said that if they can not use the drug obtained from McKesson, "then the executions can not go forward".

The Arkansas Supreme Court on Friday granted an emergency stay of execution to one of two inmates scheduled to die by lethal injection on Monday, court documents show. An eighth inmate who had been scheduled to die also won a stay earlier, removing him from the list for April execution.

Both sides have been involved in a flurry of legal action ahead of the planned executions. Hutchinson said the executions - which included a schedule of killing two inmates per day on Mondays and Thursdays - is necessary to bring closure for victims' families.

Baker says the inmates could have legitimate claims that Arkansas' execution protocol could inflict "severe pain". The manufacturers of the three drugs object to their use in executions.

A spokesperson for state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said Arkansas planned to appeal the federal ruling, saying, "It is unfortunate that a USA district judge has chosen to side with the convicted prisoners in one of their many last-minute attempts to delay justice". Lawyers for all of the convicts have asked a federal court in Little Rock to block the executions, arguing the state's rush to the death chamber was unconstitutional and reckless.

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US Judge Kristine Baker of the Eastern District of Arkansas noted in her decision that the southern state, which originally planned to conduct eight executions between April 17 and 27, had not carried out any since 2005.

Arkansas was trying to fit so many executions into a short period of time because it planned to use midazolam, a controversial sedative that has led to multiple botched executions, as part of its three-drug cocktail. The company said it'll continue efforts to have the drug returned. A state judge earlier Friday blocked the state from using a lethal injection drug, a move that could also halt the executions altogether.

Arkansas has been trying to hurry them through by the end of April as its supplies of one of the three lethal injection drugs it needs are set to expire. Civil liberties advocates and two dozen former corrections officials nationwide have expressed concerns that the schedule - which originally included two executions, back-to-back, on four nights close together - would increase the chances of a mistake.

"The Arkansas Department of Correction intentionally sought to circumvent McKesson's policies to procure Pfizer's vecuronium bromide under the auspices that it would be used for medical purposes in ADC's health facility", McKesson said in its statement.

"As a public opponent of capital punishment, Judge Griffen should have recused himself from this case", Rutledge spokesman Judd Deere said.

"Judge Griffen can not be considered remotely impartial on issues related to the death penalty", Rutledge wrote.

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